Lyndon and I are preparing our chapter reviews of Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire for a possible ebook of our own. The material will be updated a bit and greatly expanded, particularly Lyndon’s stuff. Not sure when it will be available. We have both finished our principle reedit of our posts, and we just recently exchanged our chapters with each other. I am working through Lyndon’s material, offering my insights and suggestions.
One of Michael Brown’s complaints he levels in his book against cessationists is their meanness and vitriol they express when they go after what they perceive is heresy. That attitude is really witnessed among those cessationists who run online “discernment” ministries. I don’t necessarily disagree with Dr. Brown on that point. So-called discernment ministries can be downright nasty at times.
As I was reviewing one of Lyndon’s chapters yesterday, I came across this wonderful rant he offered in response to Dr. Brown’s complaint. I thought it was well stated and worth bringing out for others to consider.
The “conspicuous lack of love” manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly. I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media (especially if you’ve never had previous contact with them at all). Some cessationists are absolutely shameful jerks (and far too frequently are even socially handicapped) and that should not be the case.
What’s more, there’s the “discernment ministry” folks out there who somehow think that it’s the business of a person without any sort of biblical office to “call out” heretics on the internet. Calling for the repentance of random strangers when they don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact, and aren’t holding any sort of biblical office (namely, an elder in a church) reveals a profound lack of discernment.
What’s worse is that, in my experience, the “discernment ministry” folks (often the most aggressive of the cessationists) who like to hop on social media or their own websites and “call out” random or infamous charismatics tend to respond to criticism far worse than the charismatics they go after. When those “discernment ministry” folks are faced with something stupid or sinful that they do, they’re frequently violently resistant to correction and attack those who attempt to confront their foolishness/sin.
Yet, they somehow expect people who likely get wheelbarrows of hate mail (i.e. any popular personality in Christendom) to somehow read a few tweets from a random agitator, and then overthrow what’s likely decades of tradition/commitment to a theological position, and repent. Even worse, more than a few of the “discernment ministry” folks appear to think their duty is done as long as they’ve pointed to any unbiblical idea that someone has ever been associated with and demanded repentance. Once heretics have been informed of their error, the “discernment ministry” folks appear to feel like their job is done. In case I’ve been unclear, too many “discernment ministry” folks do far more harm than good. On this point, I agree with Michael Brown and wish I had the power to teach a cabal of specific individuals some basic social etiquette.
Discernment is one of the things that they claim to have, but more often than not it’s simply a neurotic fascination with people who are in theological error. It may seem obvious, but 1 Pet. 5:2 is a commission strictly given to the elders in 1 Pet. 5:1. Titus 1:9 is a directive given to the overseers who are mentioned in Titus 1:7. 1 Tim. 6:20 is a command specifically addressed to Timothy, as is the command in 2 Tim. 1:14 and 2:2 (and basically all the other go-to texts that “discernment ministry” folks use to justify their existence). More often than not, the passages that do directly apply to them (i.e. Titus. 2:3-5) are being habitually and systematically disobeyed.